More of the same. In most cases, a judgment phrased like that would be negative. Ho hum. Nothing new. Same old, same old. But when the object in question is a Cambridge wide margin, "more of the same" is high praise. In fact, anything else would be a disappointment. I've written about the Wide Margin Reference twice before: first, when it appeared in its NASB incarnation, and again when the NKJV hit the shelves. The big difference between the two was the addition of a line of stitching along the cover's edge, apparently to prevent de-lamination. Now the Wide Margin Reference is available in the English Standard Version, with three binding options to choose from -- black goatskin, brown Cabra bonded leather, and a gray hardback.
Above: The ESV Wide Margin Reference comes in three attractive bindings -- Brown Cabra bonded leather (top), a gray hardcover (middle), and black goatskin (bottom).
If you want a black letter text, choose either the hardcover or the black goatskin edition with black ribbons. For red letter aficionados, there's a black goatskin edition with red ribbons and the brown Cabra bonded leather. The text setting inside is the same as the one in the ESV Pitt Minion, only bigger, which means your favorite passages are not only on the same page when you switch from one volume to the other, but in exactly the same place on the page.
Above: The fact that the text settings are identical makes switching between the smaller Pitt Minion (below) and the Wide Margin Reference a breeze.
In addition to the enlarged setting, the Wide Margin Reference differs from the Pitt Minion in the obvious way: it has wide margins. Like its predecessors, the ESV edition features a nice, wide margin on the outside and bottom, and narrower margins up top and near the gutter. Ideally, a two-column text setting should have wide margins on either side -- a good argument for a single column wide margin, if you ask me -- but here there is at least enough room inside for tiny notes. The fact that all three of these volumes opens flat really helps, since it maximizes the usable space.
As I said, my thoughts haven't changed, but I do want to add a wrinkle. You really should have a wide margin Bible. Seriously. In my mind, it's non-negotiable, and it has nothing to do with binding quality or design know-how. A wide margin edition offers a way for you to engage visibly with the text. You encounter a difficult passage, you do some thinking, some research, and once you've processed your thoughts you record the conclusions in the margin, forever nearby for future reference. Over time, you end up with a marginal "key," a road map of interpretation that can be surprisingly useful as your knowledge grows and you make more and more connections between one passage and another.
AND THEN THERE'S THE BROWN
The brown Cabra bonded leather edition isn't a luxury option, and it isn't a budget option, either. It is quality, though. In French Morocco, it might make sense, but I'm just not sure about bonded at this level. Doubts aside, it's an attractive binding. If you don't like floppy covers, the bonded leather is rigid enough to support the weight of the pages without feeling board stiff. In fact, it's only slightly stiffer than the goatskin covers on the ESV Pitt Minion. So perhaps the brown-loving, floppy-hating brigade will take to this option with a passion.